I used to love to fly. Planes? Bring ’em. Awesome.
But 12 years ago I’d flown home from a corporate trip and it had been… well, scary, to say the least. The colleague I’d flown with had actually thanked me for requiring her assistance while I freaked out during the flight – she’d said she’d been so busy taking care of me, she didn’t have a chance to get scared herself.
I never flew again after that trip. I made empty plans to visit family and friends or go on adventures… but then I’d remember I didn’t like planes, and that was that.
In recent years, I started saying I wanted help to overcome my fear of flying. I told people that maybe I’d go visit or that I’d try to make it to the show or that I might fly down.
I didn’t really intend to get on a plane, though. I’d even turned down the offer to speak at a major venue by hedging until I’d blown the deadline and it was too late to say yes.
I made a show of trying to overcome my fear of flying, of course. No one likes a slacker, eh? I talked to a friend of mine who was an airline steward. I brought up my issues with a couple of therapists skilled in the fear department. I looked up information on the ‘net and educated myself. I even contemplated buying one of those courses that promised to cure me of my fears forever.
Truthfully? I was just putting on a show. I didn’t have any intention of flying, and I knew it, deep down. It was all just a bunch of excuses.
One day, my bluff got called. Peter Shallard (being the good friend he is) marched straight up to my mental desk, set his arm on it and swept all my bullshit excuses onto the floor. “I bet I can cure you in one flight. And I will personally come over there and use my Jedi mind tricks to make you get on that plane”
I was shocked, surprised and staring at the bare wood of reality. Peter had removed all my possible excuses for not flying. How could I refuse his offer?
With no excuses left to keep me “safe” and grounded (literally), I had two possible choices:
I could face the truth about my flying issues (which really had nothing to do with flying) and admit I wasn’t going to fix them, or accept his offer, book my trip and get on the plane.
12 years ago, I made a conscious choice to allow my fears rental space in my life. They didn’t bust down the door and take control of me. I let them. I handed them the key, opened the door and said, “Come on in, boys! Drinks are on the house!”
Then I sat there for 12 years muttering about them living in my basement and making excuses for their existence.
You do this too. You have all kinds of silly fears camped out in your soul. You know they’re there, even though you’re pretending hard they’re not having a party all over you.
Oh, and you make excuses for them too. Excuses that let you live comfortably with your fears. They look something like this:
- “I can’t finish this project… I just don’t have enough time.”
- “I want to get a better web design… I just need more clients first.”
- “I really want to take this course… but I have too much on my plate.”
Let’s be honest, you and I. If you really, really wanted to finish your project or get a better site or take that course… you’d find a way to make it happen. And if I had really, really wanted to fly all these years, I could’ve found a way to get on the plane.
Excuses are illusions we wrap around ourselves to hide from reality. They’re lies we create so that we don’t feel guilty and uncomfortable about doing nothing. There’s always something we could do to help ourselves achieve our goals.
Unless we really don’t want them in the first place. And if that’s the case, why bother making excuses anyways?
Be honest with yourself. Face what’s holding you back. Sweep away the bullshit on your mental desk and take a good look at the bare wood of your real fears. You don’t have to do anything about them if you don’t want to (hell, I did nothing about flying for 12 years), but at least be truthful and stop making excuses about them.
Here’s the bonus: Once you name your true fears… once you actually voice what it really is you’re afraid of… well, nothing sounds so frightening anymore. It’s kind of like shining a light on the monster under the bed and finding a bunch of harmless dust bunnies.
And once you know what you’re really afraid of (you know, that thing hiding behind your excuses), then you can start actually talking about it. Getting help with it. Figuring out how it came to be there. Deciding how you’d like to get rid of it.
Or how to live with it. There’s nothing wrong with that, if you enjoy the company of your fears and they make you feel safe. Some people embrace their fears and live with them all their lives. It keeps them quite happy indeed.
But don’t make excuses anymore. Don’t pile bullshit on your desk. Be honest about why you’re not doing what you say you want to be doing. Be truthful with others, and with yourself.
And maybe one day, you’ll be ready to sweep your fears out of your life forever.